Review by Matt Hetherington, USATT, Aug. 15, 2017
Mantra H: Spin Elastic, Hard Sponge, 47 degree hardness
Mantra M: Spin Elastic, Medium Sponge, 45 degree hardness
The new STIGA Mantra is developed with the latest Japanese rubber technology and offers the perfect balance of synthetic and natural rubber. This new rubber mixture creates a tension between the surface and the sponge resulting in an incredible catapult effect. Microscopic air bubbles in the sponge (Oxygen Capsule System) provide great speed with a stable and consistent hit and touch. This rubber is perfect for players who require the highest in rubber quality and performance. Mantra is suitable for all types of players, with sponge variation ranging from soft to hard.
Having a slightly more spin oriented forehand loop I decided to put the Mantra Medium on my forehand and put the harder variation on my backhand side. Initially I felt the firmness in the rubber and a great ability to really drive through the ball contact. I could make very concise and accurate shots and really snap into my contact to create a lot of acceleration and also produce a great arc on my topspin ball.
Backhand Elements (Stiga Mantra H):
Block: With it’s firm sponge and increased hardness I was able to block comfortably and also found that I could easily vary the depth of the ball on the table, sometimes able to really reduce the speed and spin of the incoming ball. By tightening on contact a bit I could increase the speed of my block and add some variations. It was great for a simple style of blocking though to achieve greater variation a softer rubber would be better suited – maybe the Mantra M or S would have been even better.
Backhand Drive: Good simple execution, you can definitely feel the tension in the rubber as you hit the ball which really gives it a great ability for driving the ball forward.
Backhand Loop: I’m not usually used to using such a hard rubber on my backhand so a few adjustments had to be made. I had to make sure I snapped through the contact a little more with my wrist and also position a bit better. It’s very important with this rubber to build acceleration concisely. I was able to achieve a kind of two-pronged range of heavy spin or quick and more powerful. Playing the softer variations was a little more difficult due to the hardness. As you can see a few examples of towards the end of the video, I was able to play some fairly damaging third ball backhands against backspin.
Forehand Elements (Stiga Mantra M):
Forehand Loop Against Backspin: This was a great strength for the rubber, I felt it had a decent range and I was able to loop great third ball attack or with more spin and less pace. Again when I really made my contact concise I was able to achieve a great amount of speed in my shots.
Forehand Against Topspin: I definitely felt very confident in topspin exchanges even when I went further back from the table. While the rubber is well suited to mid-range distance it can still have great results even further back. You can produce a heavy amount of spin which in turn creates a higher bouncing kick in counterloop rallies, making even higher balls difficult for your opponents to play against. I felt in the topspin counter exchanges this rubber was fantastic and although it is quick and a little harder to control close-table, the early bounce counter could be achieved with the right timing, relaxed hand and the correct angle.
Serve and Receive:
I was very impressed with the Mantra M on serve, I was able to generate a very high quality serve with the rubber and maintain a lot of consistency with the quantity of spin, the lower trajectory of the ball and the length of the serve. I felt that serve was definitely another standout strength of the Mantra M rubber. Short receive was controlled well with both rubbers, the medium and hard firmness of the rubber really help with the more touchy areas of the game as the ball doesn’t spring too much off the rubber which allows you to control short play and serve return more easily.I felt the Mantra H was great for executing banana flip on the backhand and that I was able to control how much I accelerated without losing too much control through the rubber.
Strengths in Play and Recommendation:
I thought the Mantra M and H were great offensive rubbers and boasted a strong ability to serve and receive, as well as making spinny openings and executing powerful third ball attacks. The Mantra M definitely had more range, the Hard variation was super on third ball and on heavy spin but a little difficult on softer plays. I felt like both rubbers gave you exactly what you put in, I maintained great control and didn’t feel they were too reactive or quick – if I accelerated and applied a certain amount of body weight into the ball then I would get out what I put in. One thing I was very impressed with was the additional speed I could achieve by being concise and really snapping through my contract.
I would recommend Stiga Mantra M and H for offensive players who like to third ball attack, I think the Mantra H is for the all out offensive player who works with strong forehand positioning – it would be better suited to forehand and a high quantity of third ball attacks. The Mantra M is suited to an offensive player with a greater range of attacking strokes but still one who accelerates and drives into the ball. These rubbers are not for passive players or control spinners, they are definitely for more aggressive players.
Overall I thought the rubbers performed well, my error was putting the Mantra H on my backhand but I felt both rubbers had their merits – perhaps a combination of the Mantra M or H on forehand would do well with Mantra S or a slightly softer backhand alternative.